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Bones and stone tools found at the site of the Māori village

14th Century Maori Village Brought to Light by Logging Yard Project

Archaeologists in New Zealand have made a special discovery at Eastland Port in Gisborne. They have unearthed the indications of a 14th century Maori (Māori) village, a rare find for the area. The work has been called a good example of “the archaeological consent process working well.”

The discovery was made by a team of University of Otago archaeologists. Richard Walter, an archaeology professor at the university, explained the significance of the discovery to The Gisborne Herald , saying, “We don’t know as much about early occupation around this part of the coastline as we do in other parts of the country. There are not many of these very early sites, so this one is filling the gaps.”

Phys.org reports the archaeological team unearthed moa and other animal bones and the remains of other foodstuffs as well as fish hooks (also made of moa bone) and obsidian and chert stone tools. The moa was a type of flightless bird endemic to New Zealand that are now extinct. Evidence of trade between the Māori and the South Island was also found.

Piece of moa leg bone that has been partly worked -- probably with the intention of making a fishhook.

Piece of moa leg bone that has been partly worked -- probably with the intention of making a fishhook. ( Cinema East )

The site was explored and excavated in preparation for a log yard development project by Eastland Port. Eastland Port general manager Andrew Gaddum noted that there are many decades of Maori and European history under and around the area. He said ,

So it was important we carry out an excavation beforehand. Given the port’s location, we take the protection of these significant sites within operational areas very seriously. This process has given us all an unprecedented chance to peek beneath the surface. Following the archaeological authority process, the site has now been covered over with confidence that it’s reasonably well understood, well protected and has contributed to our advancing knowledge of the past.

The Gisborne Herald explained that the area around the site was significant historically because it was there that the Maori first landed their canoes and entered the region and it is also the location where they had their first contact with James Cook in 1769.

A portrait of a Maori chief by Sydney Parkinson, the artist on Captain Cook’s 18th century voyages.

A portrait of a Maori chief by Sydney Parkinson, the artist on Captain Cook’s 18th century voyages. ( Public Domain )

The University of Otago archaeology laboratories are completing an analysis on the artifacts before they will begin the process to return them to their rightful owners.

The University of Otago’s Southern Pacific Archaeological Research unit undertook the excavations following tikanga Maori protocols. Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga’s director of regional services, Pam Bain, said the work at the Maori village also provides a good example for other development projects in which archaeological remains are a factor, “This really is a great example of the archaeological consent process working well, where all the groups involved have been working together to get the best possible outcome for this very important place.”

Obsidian flake tool uncovered at Eastland Port in Gisborne, New Zealand.

Obsidian flake tool uncovered at Eastland Port in Gisborne, New Zealand. ( Cinema East )

Top Image: Bones and stone tools found at the site of the Māori village. Source: Cinema East

By Alicia McDermott

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